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March 17, 2006

essay response 1

Part 1: Social Responsibility

Ethical Design Education by Susan Szenasy

This essay was short, easy to read, and interesting too. It is written by a New York City design professor and magazine editor. The essay is kind of an overview of the class that she has been teaching that semester, called Ethics of Design, which is all about the responsibility a designer has to the planet, the community, the profession, the client, and ourselves. Susan feels that our biggest responsibility is to sustain the environment and this is a discussion that her class returns to over and over throughout the semester. She wants her students to share her belief that we can make a difference in the world and make it a better place. Susan gives examples of what she has shared with her students during the class to help get this message across.

Susan talks about how her fashion students don't share her belief at first about the ability of individuals to make a difference in making the world more eco-friendly. They tell her that the big corporations control the fashion world, which is driven by greed and such. I agree with them that the fashion world is controlled by greed and such and it would be very difficult for incoming fashion designers not to just follow that path, but I think it is still possible to make a difference. Susan also mentions William Morris and Walter Gropius as people who made a difference and had a strong influence on design because of their strong beliefs. A Story of Healing is a video that she had her students watch about American doctors and nurses working in primitive conditions in Vietnam out of the goodness of their hearts. I think that this is such an admirable action and the idea behind it can be applied to many professions including design. We can receive many rewards that extend way beyond monetary rewards for using our talents to help make a positive difference in people's lives and the world. Someday I hope to work up the courage to do something like this - to volunteer my time and talents to help others, possibly outside of the U.S. Susan also mentions a film called Powers of Ten which I have acually seen. It has been a while since I saw it, but it was really cool because they start in Venice with a hula hoop (if I remember correctly) and continuously zoom out from there. Rings pass by as the camera zooms, indicating each power of ten that you have zoomed out. You find yourself out in space and you realize just how small you are. Then the camera starts zooming back in, all the way down to the very smallest particles, which makes you feel quite large. It's an interesting example of how we need to realize and remember how closely we're tied to the world and environment.

I enjoyed reading this essay. It was inspiring and I especially liked Susan's statement at the end. She hopes that we eventually won't even need to use the term "sustainability," because we will understand that good design is responsible design and that eco-friendliness will just be automatically included in good design.